Armchair Analyst: Matt Doyle

Where MLS Western Conference depth charts & rosters stand for 2024

Doyle 2.1.24

The offseason continues!

Reminder: the Primary Transfer Window technically begins on Jan. 31 and remains open until April 23, so there's time to get moves done. Then again, games soon count for real when Matchday 1 arrives in late February.

With that in mind, here’s version 2.0 of our annual Offseason Roster Build compendium. Eastern Conference came earlier this week, while the Western Conference updates are below.

Offseason So Far (Jan. 8)

New CSO/sporting director Rodolfo Borrell has slowly and steadily cleared the decks since joining Austin last summer and, to that end, the vast majority of his moves this winter (thus far) have been outgoing: a number of contracts options declined, a few others just allowed to expire, and veteran fullback Nick Lima traded away for up to $300k in allocation cash. Also flipped for allocation cash was their top SuperDraft pick, center back Nate Jones, who was sent to the Rapids for a reported $250k in GAM.

I do think they acquired a new starter when they took Jáder Obrian in the Re-Entry Draft last month. Obrian projects best as a direct-to-goal inverted left winger, and given the state of the roster, that spot looks very much like it’s his to lose.

The only other incoming signing has been goalkeeper Stefan Cleveland, which is weird considering 1) how good Brad Stuver has been, and 2) how good Damian Las was last year in MLS NEXT Pro. That’s not a spot I thought would be high on the “need to address” list.

What's Next?

So, so much.

They have to figure out how to part ways with Emiliano Rigoni, the disappointing DP winger who has done a whole lot of not much since his arrival 18 months back.

They are now thin at fullback with Lima's departure and thin at forward with the departure of everyone except Gyasi Zardes (who probably isn’t a starter anymore). Zardes is on a manageable salary for a backup, though. The same can probably not be said of Alex Ring, whose number is right on the max TAM/DP threshold. Austin have used a DP slot on the veteran central/defensive midfielder before (it’s a good way to save allocation cash), but that doesn’t seem like the best way to maximize this particular roster. This particular roster needs, I think, a DP winger and a DP No. 9.

They also need more center-back depth – right now there are just three on the roster, and all three missed chunks of last year with injuries.

It’s a lot. One way they might create room to address some of those needs is by shopping Daniel Pereira, the former No. 1 overall SuperDraft pick who’s developed into a very good, game-controlling deep-lying midfielder, but who probably doesn’t fit that snugly next to Owen Wolff.

I won’t say that Pereira's being shopped, precisely, but there is a lot of interest in him around the league.

Feb. 1 Update

They added Brazilian left back Guilherme Biro from Serie B side Mirassol and signed young homegrown attacker Micah Burton and… that’s it. Biro at least can be penciled in as a likely starter, but Burton is probably two years away from contributing.

There really haven’t been any big moves to speak of this offseason (getting Obrian doesn’t count as a big move, guys), which is shocking for a team that was so poor last year. And just as shocking is that it seems like there are no big moves to come. Rigoni and Zardes are both still in town, and head coach Josh Wolff has indicated both will continue to be in town. The center backs haven’t been reinforced, and the winger corps, even with Obrian in town, is underwhelming.

I thought this roster was incomplete and was worried because that’d be bad. But you know what’s worse? The fact that this roster’s not incomplete. The fact that what we’re seeing right now might be what we get.

There’s got to be one or two big moves made here. Honestly.

Note below that I’ve talked myself into Rigoni playing as a false 9. I’m not sure it’ll work, but at least they’d be trying something.

ATX depth chart 2.1.24

Offseason So Far (Jan. 8)

Nobody’s been busier than Pádraig Smith. First he hired Chris Armas as the new head coach, then he wheeled-and-dealed at the SuperDraft, then he brought Zack Steffen back to MLS on a non-DP deal, and then he brought Djordje Mihailovic back to MLS on an actual DP deal. In between all of that they made last year’s leading scorer for the Red Bulls, Omir Fernandez, the youngest free agent signing in MLS history.

Headed in the other direction were long-serving veterans Jack Price, Diego Rubio, Sam Nicholson, Danny Wilson, William Yarbrough and Steven Beitashour. They also traded their previous starting left back, Andrew Gutman, to Chicago for presumably their next starting left back, Miguel Navarro.

When you finish dead last in your conference and second-to-last in the overall league standings, everything is on the table and every job is up for grabs. That’s become incredibly true in very short order in Commerce City.

What's Next?

The bulk of the roster building is done, with the only spot that’s a clear need being a midfield ball-winner to play next to Connor Ronan. I’d expect Smith to try to address that in the coming weeks. I suspect they have a decent amount of cap room and GAM to make a move for a veteran, though as of now they do not have a DP slot open (that could change if they buy out Kévin Cabral, but I’ve heard nothing to indicate that’s in the offing).

One theme throughout this roster is youth. This is a bet on Smith’s part that Armas can do for the Rapids’ young players what, say, Wilfried Nancy did for Columbus’ young players last season. Obviously it’ll be a vastly different game model – I’m not sure I’d expect full Energy Drink Soccer from Armas, though it’ll definitely tilt in that direction – but the development of guys with potential will be necessary if this team’s going to win.

Regardless, it’s a more sensibly constructed roster than it was last season. Smith’s dealt Armas a pretty good hand here, and now it’s up to the manager to play it properly.

Feb. 1 Update

I was wrong about Navarro being Colorado’s new starting LB – he’s already been shipped out. They moved him along to make room for old friend Sam Vines, who returns to Commerce City after two very good years in Antwerp, including a domestic treble (league, Cup and SuperCup) for the first time in club history.

Bringing Vines home is a coup. He should easily be a top-10 LB in MLS and is better than a coin flip to be in the top five.

Jasper Löffelsend won’t rise that high in any positional rankings, but I absolutely loved the trade for him. He can provide cover at either the 6 or the 8 depending on how the midfield’s arrayed around him, and can maybe even push for a starting job at right back. For a SuperDraft pick, a one-year rental of an international slot and $100k in conditional GAM? That’s a good move at the very least, and potentially a great one.

Pádraig has cooked all winter. The final course he had to serve was defensive midfield, and they've landed on 23-year-old Senegalese ball-winner Lamine Diack, who’s arrived on loan from Nantes. Diack hasn’t quite broken through in Ligue 1, but he was a regular starter last year in the Turkish top flight, and we’ve seen several players come from that league and do well in MLS (including Obinna Nwobodo, who we put on our Extratime Best XI).

I can't imagine there’s anything else big coming down the pike now that Diack is signed. And I have to say, I don’t think Rapids fans could’ve hoped for much more this winter. It’s like a brand new and, on paper anyway, a much better team.

COL depth chart 2.1.24

Offseason So Far (Jan. 8)

Dallas let several veterans walk – Jáder Obrian, Facundo Quignón and José Antonio Martínez being the most notable – which largely made sense given the state of the roster and the respective level those guys had performed at over the past few years.

The incoming signings have been typical Dallas: kids developed internally, a teenaged import (17-year-old Canadian/Romanian dual national Enes Sali, who’s already repped Romania as a full international) and a SuperDraft pick.

For that last one: I wasn’t enamored of Logan Farrington’s underlying numbers as an attacker, but he passes the eye test as an athlete and as a defensive forward/winger. I could see him becoming a more goal-dangerous Khiry Shelton, which is not a bad use of a SuperDraft pick at all.

They still have a DP slot open, so things could still be moved around a bit.

What's Next?

I’m not sure I expect them to use that DP slot, though they very definitely need to add another defensive midfielder and another center back. Preferably a starter at CB, as a matter of fact, as right now they’ve only got one guy (Nkosi Tafari) there with his name written in pen.

The other question is about the formation. Nico Estévez hit on something down the stretch last year by moving Alan Velasco inside into a true No. 10 role and partnering Paxton Pomykal and Asier Illarramendi in midfield. It was much more dynamic than the 4-3-3 with Velasco inverted, which had been the default for most of the season.

Well, Velasco is likely out for most of 2024 with a torn ACL and while Sali has played as a No. 10 in the youth ranks, there’s a big jump from that to doing so in MLS. And right now I’ve got Sebastian Lletget in that spot, but Lletget’s never been a pure chance creator.

The actual answer might be dropping Jesús Ferreira into a No. 10 role – more of a 9.5, really; he’d play it like Hany Mukhtar plays it in Nashville – but I don’t feel comfortable having that on the depth chart right now. So take this with a grain of salt.

Feb. 1 Update

Dallas re-signed veteran backup goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer and young center back Amet Korca, and whispers out of Frisco are Korca might be in line for a starting job this year. They also brought in veteran CB Omar Gonzalez as an MLS free agent, and then got Ecuadorian youth international d-mid Patrickson Delgado on loan from Independiente de Valle.

These are all very solid, very FC Dallas-type moves. They’ve always scouted South America well, they’ve never been afraid to sign MLS free agents, and have usually been aggressive about pushing players like Korca into bigger roles. It all checks out.

But what might indicate we’re truly in a brand new era for this club and this league is the club-record deal (reported $9.7 million base; rising up to $13 million) for 25-year-old Croatian international center forward Petar Musa of Portuguese giants Benfica.

This is like an Atlanta United-type signing (Musa is similar to Giorgos Giakoumakis in a lot of ways, though he’s actually a few years younger) in terms of outlay and aggressiveness. Dallas are really sitting at the high-stakes table these days.

That’s long been true for potential outgoing deals, so it should be no surprise they are entertaining offers for Jesús Ferreira. Buzz over at 3rdDegree did his usual excellent job of covering that one in depth.

I understand Ferreira’s desire to move to a good team in Europe, and suspect he eventually will. But I hope we get to see him, Musa and Bernard Kamungo in the same attack for a bit this year. I think they’d fit very well, and would do so in a different formation than we’ve yet seen from Nico Estévez…

DAL depth chart 2.1.24

Offseason So Far (Jan. 8)

It has been a quiet offseason thus far. The biggest news is the departure of starting center forward Corey Baird, who had a nice season last year with 14 goals across all competitions, to FC Cincinnati in free agency. Comparatively, they kept right back Griffin Dorsey in free agency.

Bigger news than that in terms of roster flexibility is the departure of center back Teenage Hadebe. He never lived up to his DP tag, and having that open gives general manager Pat Onstad some real ammunition with which to improve the roster. And they can officially open up another DP slot if they’re able to permanently move on from striker Sebastián Ferreira.

It’s all ifs and maybes, though, as Houston have been very, very quiet this winter. The only real newcomer is center forward Stephen Annor Gyamfi, who was taken at the tail end of the first round of the SuperDraft. He's a Generation adidas guy.

What's Next?

Two DPs, hopefully, with both of them likely to be attackers. Whether one is a right winger or not largely depends upon what happens with Coco Carrasquilla. The Panamanian star plays mostly as a No. 8 for his national team and played mostly at that spot during his first year in Houston, but ended up as a right winger last year in Ben Olsen’s 4-2-3-1 that morphed into a lopsided 4-4-2 diamond.

Whatever position you want to call it with Carrasquilla, the fact is 1) he was awesome, and 2) having him start on the right and then come inside gave Houston a different shape than virtually any other team in the league. I don’t think you can replicate it unless you specifically go looking for that exact type of player.

For what it’s worth, the Mexican media have said Coco’s a target of Club América, and when Club América come calling, they usually get their guy.

I could see Houston’s braintrust deciding to spend the other DP slot on a left winger, a No. 9 or even a No. 10, depending upon how enamored they are of Nelson Quiñónes, Ibrahim Aliyu and Amine Bassi, respectively.

A bit more d-mid and center back depth wouldn’t hurt, either, nor would an attacking, left-footed left back who can provide the final ball. But those are significantly less urgent than getting the DP slots right.

Feb. 1 Update

They transferred forward Thor Úlfarsson and they signed homegrown defender Kieran Sargeant. And… that’s it.

This is officially concerning because it looked like Houston were ready to play with the big boys last year. But now Héctor Herrera’s hurt to start the season; Alberth Elis is likely coming back to MLS – just not to Houston; Baird and Úlfarsson are gone; there’s an open and as-yet unfilled DP slot; and it’s just hard to see a single area in which this team’s improved from last year.

I am concerned.

HOU depth chart 2.1.24

Offseason So Far (Jan. 8)

New general manager Will Kuntz has basically said his main job is to avoid the mistakes of recent Galaxy braintrusts – i.e., to stop signing big-name, over-the-hill guys from Europe without considering fit and motivation, and to build up the kind of internal knowhow and infrastructure that can develop academy prospects into first-team regulars. To those of us who care about youth development in the US, that is music to our ears as it is frankly shocking how long the Galaxy have had their academy in place in the most talent-rich area of North America, and how little they’ve gotten out of it.

That has to change in the long term. In the short term, though, Kuntz is doing the right thing in letting under-performing veterans go (most notably DPs Douglas Costa and Chicharito) and trying to juice the GAM reserves by trading guys like Tyler Boyd, Raheem Edwards and Preston Judd.

Meanwhile, the incoming cadre includes a new starter at right back in Japanese international Miki Yamane, and depth at left back, goalkeeper and center forward in the form of MLS vets John Nelson, John McCarthy and Miguel Berry, respectively.

It’s been a successful winter on the fringes thus far, but the biggest swings are still to come.

What's Next?

Those big swings will be the two open DP slots the Galaxy have, and the two obvious holes to fill are right wing and center forward.

Ramón Sosa, the Paraguayan international who plays for Talleres in Argentina, was LA’s top target for the right wing spot, but as per Tommy Scoops’ latest, the Galaxy bid $12.5 million for Sosa, were rejected, and have walked away from the table.

Step in Brazilian Gabriel Pec:

Pec is a direct, goal-dangerous inverted right winger, which is the exact profile you want for the guy lining up next to Riqui Puig and across from Diego Fagúndez. Oh, and the Vasco da Gama product would be a Young DP. Kuntz is cooking here.

There is less to be said about the No. 9 slot thus far, though it does appear that the Galaxy are shopping mostly in South America to address that need as well.

Those are the big, huge, honkingly massive priorities for Kuntz the rest of the way. I still think goalkeeper is a spot that needs attention, but perhaps they’ve seen something in 22-year-old Serb Novak Mićović that wasn’t necessarily in the numbers last season.

Feb. 1 Update

The Pec deal was finally officially announced, and now the job is to wait and see what Kuntz does with the other open DP slot. Initially I had assumed a DP No. 9 coming in as a direct replacement or Chicharito, but it seems the plan is for Dejan Joveljić to inherit the starting role and for the other new DP to be another winger to line up across from Pec.

The name most often reported is Ghanaian international Joseph Paintsil of Genk in the Belgian top flight. He’s a direct-to-goal right-footed winger who’d play inverted, just like Pec on the left. And yeah, I think that’d be a lot of fun!

If they get that one across the line, the rest of this window’s moves would just be about adding depth, most likely. Maybe they’ll finally start using their academy to that end.

LA depth chart 2.1.24

Offseason So Far (Jan. 8)

Just a crazy amount of turnover for a team that made two straight MLS Cups, winning one and losing one.

  • Giorgio Chiellini retired.
  • Diego Palacios signed with Corinthians on a free.
  • John McCarthy and Maxime Crépeau signed elsewhere in the Western Conference in free agency.
  • Kellyn Acosta is likely next, though my money’s on him heading to the Eastern Conference.
  • Formerly heralded homegrowns Christian Torres and Tony Leone, as well as Julian Gaines, are out of contract (they all might be back, or none of them might be back).
  • Carlos Vela is still out of contract.

They did add Hugo Lloris at goalkeeper and are reportedly paying him only $350k (Spurs are on the hook for the vast majority of his salary), which could end up being a good move. But this roster is pretty threadbare at the moment.

What's Next?

Did you know LAFC never filled their third DP slot last year? I think that’s a pretty weird thing for a team that was constantly one piece short of winning a trophy!

Well, that’s still open, and with Vela as yet unsigned, a second DP slot is open as well. Ideally, they’d get Vela back on a non-DP number and then use the two open slots to beef up the midfield. Then they'd find a No. 9 who can really lead the line (that might come in conjunction with a buyout of Mario González, who was poor following his mid-season arrival).

They also need a left back to replace Palacios, a d-mid to soak up minutes for Ilie Sánchez, more center back depth and a true backup for Lloris.

There’s a ton of work that’s left, and John Thorrington’s got a ton of question marks staring back at him (and that’s without even mentioning how Dénis Bouanga is suddenly itching for a return to Europe). Included in that is the game model, as I think last year’s title-game shortcomings showed the ceiling ends up being lower than expected when you progressively use less and less of the ball.

Feb. 1 Update

Thorrington looked at those question marks and started coming up with answers. First they loaned out González to Sporting de Gijón, and next promoted 19-year-old Italian center back Lorenzo Dellavalle from the club’s MLS NEXT Pro outfit to the first team. Then they loaned out the disappointing Stipe Biuk to Real Valladolid before canceling their loan of the even more disappointing Filip Krastev.

Opening those slots meant they could ink Omar Campos, Santos Laguna’s 21-year-old Mexican international left back, by using a U22 Initiative slot. And then they absolutely delighted me by bringing Eduard Atuesta home after a disappointing two years with Palmeiras (not 100% done yet).

God I missed watching that dude play. Right now I’ve got him penciled in as a starting No. 8, but he can obviously play as a No. 6 (that’s where he spent most of his time in his first LAFC go-round) when Ilie needs a rest.

Their third new addition is Tomás Ángel, the son of RBNY legend Juan Pablo Ángel. The elder Ángel was a pure No. 9, while the younger version seems to be more of a 9-and-a-half, or even an inverted right winger. For now, though, I’ll list him with the center forwards.

So the roster’s starting to come together, but there remain two big questions: What to do with Carlos Vela? And will they use both DP slots?

Obviously those questions are linked, and I have to say the longer Vela remains unsigned by LAFC, and the louder Mexican media shout that he’ll be joining Chivas de Guadalajara, the more convinced I am he’ll end up back down there with his original club.

Whether Vela stays or goes, Belgian international Divock Origi has been mentioned as an LAFC target in report after report, but right now that seems more smoke than fire. There haven’t been any other names I’ve seen surfaced, but one Origi-sized signing and one lesser signing (probably a central midfielder) sounds about right.

That would still leave the Black & Gold a little bit thin – they’d need another goalkeeper, a winger* or two, another left-footed LB, and to re-sign some of their homegrowns who haven’t quite panned out – but not disastrously so.

(*) Well, after I wrote that blurb, LAFC signed 17-year-old Venezuelan winger David Martínez, who’s one of the brightest lights in Venezuela’s youth ranks. Exciting signing.

The good news is Thorrington says the hard yards have already been run and more signings will be coming through imminently. Also, there have been no new noises coming from Bouanga’s camp about unhappiness in LA or a push to go back to Europe. My read on that is there have probably been some face-to-face talks about a new deal that would keep both sides happy.

Lots of reasons for optimism in the fanbase right now.

LAFC depth chart 2.1.24

Offseason So Far (Jan. 8)

I don’t think it’s uncharitable to say it seems like Minnesota have done nothing thus far this offseason. Part of that is because new chief soccer officer Khaled El-Ahmad has yet to formally make the journey to St. Paul from his home in England.

So yeah, it’s been weird and mostly unproductive, and the offseason has just about entirely consisted of letting veterans walk after running out their contract, or just declining options on kids who were never going to break into the regular rotation.

Oh and also, interim head coach Sean McAuley left for a USL Championship job. And he's been replaced by interim 2.0 Cameron Knowles, who previously led MNUFC2 in MLS NEXT Pro. So right now, from the outside looking in, they’re pretty rudderless.

That said, I did love their top pick in the SuperDraft. I think Hugo Bacharach, a big Spaniard who played both d-mid and center back in college, is going to be superb in MLS, and it wouldn’t shock me at all if he won a starting job this year from the jump.

What's Next?

El-Ahmad should probably show up and, you know, pick a coach. It’s hard to imagine he’s had the job for three months – even if he was wrapping up his Barnsley duties, he was named Minnesota CSO in October – and hasn’t had time to spare a thought about who should be calling the shots on the sideline.

The roster itself is mostly in good shape, save for the lack of a high-end left back and the need for a foundational piece at defensive midfield (they brought Wil Trapp back, but Trapp isn't a starter on a title hopeful at this point in his career).

Minnesota have an open DP slot to put to use in their efforts, though if they want to retain access to all three U22 Initiative slots, it’d have to be either a Young DP or a guy whose salary is below the max-TAM threshold.

I genuinely love their projected starters in attack, and with a little bit of improvement from their youngsters, they’ll have some depth and flexibility, too. But that back six really does need some work.

Feb. 1 Update

The Loons added one presumptive new starter in giant, once-capped Swedish center back Victor Eriksson on a free transfer. It went under the radar, but it seems like a very useful move.

The rest of what Minnesota’s done over the past three weeks has been lower key, as they’ve added depth at center forward, in central midfield and fullback mostly by targeting lower-division stars from the US pyramid. I like all of the moves individually but, for what it’s worth, I still think they need starting-caliber fullbacks.

But you know what? They’re already in better shape overall than they were last year – even if they still don’t have a coach yet – because Emanuel Reynoso showed up for preseason. He’s in town, and so’s Teemu Pukki, and so’s Bongi Hlongwane and Robin Lod, and so too, finally, is El-Ahmad.

I know it doesn’t precisely feel like it, but the Loons are actually in pretty good shape here.

MIN depth chart 2.1.24

Offseason So Far (Jan. 8)

Portland have been busy. Their offseason so far, in three acts:

  1. Hire Phil Neville as the head coach. The decision was made on Nov. 6.
  2. Decline contracts on a boatload of players, from DP Jaroslaw Niezgoda to legend Sebastian Blanco to last year’s top draft pick Noel Caliskan. And transfer out Yimmi Chara to open another DP slot.
  3. Raid Canada.

The Timbers have signed Canadian goalkeepers Maxime Crépeau and James Pantemis via free agency over the past two weeks, and have traded for Canadian left center back Kamal Miller as well. Neville’s got familiarity with all three guys thanks to the time he spent assisting John Herdman last summer on the CanMNT, so it stands to reason the coach had a say in the moves.

Crépeau and Miller represent significant upgrades over what the Timbers had in those spots last season.

What's Next?

Brazilian giants Flamengo are reportedly sniffing around Evander, last year’s prized DP signing, but I would be shocked if that went anywhere. They’d likely have to more than double the $7.5 million bid that was reported.

Evander is the only DP on the roster, with left wing and No. 9 most likely to get attention with the two open DP slots. I would expect a more proven left winger, while at center forward they can go a little bit younger given the presence of veteran Felipe Mora. Whenever he’s been healthy, he’s been productive.

They also need to get a backup left back and maybe one more deep-lying midfielder since the only guy in the depth chart there who’s not injury-prone is the soon-to-be 38-year-old Diego Chara.

Feb. 1 Update

They inked veteran fullback Eric Miller, but other than that there’s been no movement on the Timbers’ roster.

Note Claudio Bravo, who’s expected to be the starting left back, just underwent knee surgery and will be out for about three months. So I wouldn’t be shocked if there’s some urgency to bring in another true left back (Eric Miller is right-footed but can play there; Kamal Miller can also slide outside in a pinch, but neither’s a great long-term option).

Irrespective of that, all eyes remain on those two open DP slots. Owner Merritt Paulson has teased a couple of huge signings, so we shall see.

POR depth chart 2.1.24

Offseason So Far (Jan. 8)

RSL are like a weird epistemological problem. Over the past few years, they have constantly forced me to evaluate not just what I think I know, but why I think I know it. At the same time, they have made me hold contradictory positions in my head, like “RSL have generally made good-to-very good signings” and “RSL have overachieved just by making the playoffs.” Or “Pablo Mastroeni’s teams suffer for their lack of a clear tactical vision” with “Pablo Mastroeni’s teams are flexible and ruthless about exploiting opponents' weaknesses.”

By the middle of last season, I kind of threw up my hands and gave up. They have been impossible to analyze.

And so in true RSL fashion, they have done stuff that has kind of made sense this offseason, and kind of not:

  • Kurt Schmid has replaced Elliott Fall as chief soccer officer. I think this makes sense because Schmid is well-regarded, but also it kind of doesn’t because RSL’s ownership just gave Fall four straight windows, the most recent of which included the club’s record signing (Cristian Arango). It’s strange to let a guy build the team for that long and then demote him after the club made the playoffs.
  • They kept Mastroeni on as head coach, but remade his entire staff. This is despite what I think most would consider massive tactical progress in 2023, as well as admirable player development throughout.

So now I assume Schmid has his hand on the wheel, even though he didn’t get to pick the coach (though I’m assuming he picked the staff?), and even though his immediate predecessor did most of the spending.

Anyway, Schmid has not done anything yet except let Damir Kreilach walk, which opened up a DP slot. And it seems like RSL are on the verge of selling Jefferson Savarino back down to Brazil, which would open up another.

We’ll see.

What's Next?

The Savarino sale, which will then presumably be followed by the acquisition of a high-level DP attacker. Right now I’m assuming that will be a DP No. 10 with Diego Luna still operating out on the left wing – Schmid talked late in the season about how and why they like Luna in that role more (tl;dr, he gets more touches) – but I can’t rule out the possibility of Luna being shifted inside and RSL bringing in another DP winger.

Part and parcel of all this is I’m assuming RSL will shift to a 4-2-3-1. That might be a stupid assumption since Mastroeni has generally preferred either a 4-4-2 or a 3-5-2 during his time in Sandy, but this team keeps investing in wingers and letting forwards walk, so the personnel seems better suited to a front three of some sort.

This roster’s packed, by the way, but probably lacking some quality. I’m not sure there’s a single guy who’s a surefire top-five player in the league at their respective spot.

Feb. 1 Update

Savarino was indeed sold to Botafogo in Brazil, while Rubio Rubin was loaned out to Querétaro in Liga MX and Jasper Löffelsend was traded to Colorado for a collection of assets.

The only incoming player during that time is young Mexican-American winger Fidel Barajas, who lit it up for Charleston in the USL Championship last year and was purchased for a reported $250,000. With his acquisition, RSL can juuuuust about field a full U-20 squad from within their first team.

That’s not a bad thing, though they do need to sign some full-grown adults. Greek left back Alexandros Katranis looks likely to be the first of those, though with two DP slots still open, I’ve got to think more and bigger moves are coming for the Claret-and-Cobalt.

RSL depth chart 2.1.24

Offseason So Far (Jan. 8)

San Jose let as many as four starters – depending upon your point of view – walk this offseason:

  • Veteran CB Jonathan Mensah signed with the Revs as a free agent.
  • Another CB, Nathan, seems set to sign with the Sounders.
  • DP No. 10 Jamiro Monteiro is a free agent.
  • So is veteran left back and Peruvian international Miguel Trauco.

That is a lot of room in the XI. Some of these spots will surely be filled from within – Rodrigues, who they signed on a permanent deal, is a lock to be one of the starting CBs, and I wouldn’t be shocked if first-round draft pick Jamar Ricketts ended up being a starter – but general manager Chris Leitch has some shopping to do.

Further down the depth chart, they did what I think is some pretty good work in getting veteran d-mid Alfredo Morales from NYCFC and picking up Preston Judd from the Galaxy for $200k of GAM. Judd’s a career backup and beware of small sample sizes, but, uh…

Preston Judd - FbRef chart - Doyle offseason

If you’re looking for the next Brian White, this might be the guy.

What's Next?

They have still not sold Cade Cowell, which is kind of baffling to me. There's another round of reports that there is significant interest from clubs in Europe (a Europa League-level club) and in Liga MX (mainly from Chivas). We shall see.

Whether or not they actually sell Cowell, they have one DP slot open and some good flexibility.

What I’m curious to see with that flexibility is if they address the No. 10 spot or if they intend to let Niko Tsakiris or Cruz Medina fill it. Tsakiris and Medina are the two best prospects in San Jose’s pipeline, and Tsakiris has already played a bunch of MLS minutes. I think he’s more of a ball progressor than chance creator, but that kind of fits in Luchi Gonzalez’s system – one in which it’s the wingers who create most of the chances while the midfield organizes the game.

It would be a massive risk, of course, as there aren’t a whole lot of 18-year-olds in MLS history who’ve shouldered as significant an attacking burden as I’m talking about here.

In what might be related news, I’m going to take this with a giant grain of salt:

Feb. 1 Update

Selling Cowell to Chivas came as a shock to me – and millions of other folks – because of Chivas’ long-standing Mexican-only policy. In the past, that’s allowed them to field Mexican-Americans as well, but only if those players had effectively renounced representing the USMNT (this was a huge issue with Alex Zendejas, remember).

Well, Cowell’s got the Mexican blood, but he’s also got a bunch of USMNT caps. Enough, as a matter of fact, to be permanently cap-tied. There’s no renouncing the USMNT, and no possibility of a one-time switch to El Tri.

So it was an unprecedented move by Chivas. Hopefully Cowell does well.

The only incoming move of the past three weeks has been inking another Mexican-American, veteran goalkeeper William Yarbrough, to come in as Daniel’s backup.

I still think they’ll go out and get a DP No. 10, and another starter at CB wouldn’t shock me at all. But I’ll admit it’s been very, very, very quiet.

SJ depth chart 2.1.24

Offseason So Far (Jan. 8)

The Sounders did what we thought they would do: let a bunch of veterans walk as their contracts expired. That includes legendary No. 10 Nico Lodeiro, who has since signed with Orlando City.

It was all perfectly understandable, as it would be tough to transition to a new era with the centerpiece of the old era still sitting there on the bench.

That's it so far, though as I’m writing this…

What's Next?

Here we go.

If you watched the Sounders last year, you saw a team that was awesome defensively, generally dominant in terms of dictating tempo and where on the field the game was played, and poor at turning the above into chances. Time and again they would build up through the midfield and put left winger Léo Chú into spots to beat a defender 1v1 and hit the final ball, and time and time again (especially against LAFC) Chú couldn’t take advantage of the situation.

The game model was very good. The personnel needed to change to elevate it to title-caliber.

Enter de la Vega, who has always been a very dribbly boi and is, on paper, a perfect fit inverted on the left of Brian Schmetzer’s front three. In theory, it is an obvious upgrade at the spot the Sounders most needed to upgrade.

Obviously, this is not a like-for-like replacement of Lodeiro. Making this signing pretty much locks in the three-man midfield of Albert Rusnák, João Paulo and Josh Atencio that played so well last year, and that’s a good thing.

For what it’s worth, I’d be surprised if Chú's not very available should someone offer a decent transfer fee. And I’m extremely surprised no one in MLS has made a significant GAM offer for Xavier Arreaga – an MLS-proven, title-winning left-footed CB in his prime. There are, what, 20 teams who could use that?

What I don’t expect to be next is any movement at center forward. Raúl Ruidíaz is entering the final year of his deal, and 1) I don’t think the Sounders are going to buy him out, while 2) I don’t think any of the South American teams reputedly interested have the kind of cash needed to make the move themselves and pay Ruidiaz’s salary. And, I guess, 3) Ruidíaz is not going to walk away from the last massive paycheck of his career.

So just as was the case last year, I’d expect Ruidíaz and Jordan Morris to split time up top.

The only other thing I’d like to see them address is adding a left-footed LB who can get forward and add to the attack, though with Reed Baker-Whiting out there and available to play on either side of that backline, it’s not an urgent need by any stretch.

Feb. 1 Update

They not only got the de la Vega move across the finish line, but they then went out and got arguably the best free agent No. 9 available in Danny Musovski, who’s scored a goal about every 200 minutes across his MLS career for LAFC and RSL. Right now I have him third on the depth chart, but I think there’s going to be an honest-to-god battle for the starting spot during preseason. And bear in mind that while Schmetzer’s always preferred the 4-2-3-1, we saw him use the 3-5-2 to good effect back in 2021, so adding another true forward to the ranks opens up that kind of formational variance.

The only thing left now is to sell/trade Arreaga and maybe find a young left back to develop. But I don’t think the Sounders are going to be in any rush here, especially with the Arreaga move, because if one team or another comes out of the gates coughing up three goals a game (and there are plenty of teams in the league right now who look capable of that), a bidding war for a guy of Arreaga’s pedigree could ensue.

CSO Craig Waibel’s put this squad in a good spot.

SEA depth chart 2.1.24

Offseason So Far (Jan. 8)

Sporting finally turned the page on one of the great chapters of any team’s MLS history when they let Graham Zusi and Roger Espinoza head into free agency this winter. They were two of the core pieces of what was a borderline dynasty from 2011 to 2018, and two of the very best in the league at their respective spots.

As of now, both guys remain unsigned and I’m sure there’s a timeline in which they both end up back with KC. But I’m not holding my breath for it.

More important from a roster-building point of view was the club’s decision to part with DP attacker Gadi Kinda, who has since signed in Israel. Kinda wasn’t healthy much during his final two years in KC, but he got fit in time for the Audi 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs and, once there, reminded everyone of his quality.

What's Next?

Go out and get a DP No. 10. Erik Thommy is the starter at that spot right now, and while Thommy’s a good player, he’s not the kind of elite attacking midfielder that title-winning teams tend to have in this league.

That’s the only clear area of need and the only thing they should be focused on at the moment.

Feb. 1 Update

They got midfielder Memo Rodríguez as depth, but otherwise nada. I still think they’ll go out and get that DP No. 10, but maybe not until the summer.

Could they use another high-upside young center back and maybe a winger as well? I’d say yes. But there’s no urgency for either spot.

SKC depth chart 2.1.24

Offseason So Far (Jan. 8)

They made something of a head-scratching move, sending starting winger Jared Stroud, CB reserve Lucas Bartlett and $300k of GAM to D.C. United for utility man Chris Durkin, who they then immediately placed into one of their U22 Initiative slots.

Durkin is a useful player with, I think, some unexplored upside, but that’s a pretty hefty sum to pay for a guy who’s never really locked down a first-choice role at any position. I’ve got him listed as a No. 8 in the depth chart below, but he could just as easily end up being a No. 6, a right back or a center back. He’s played any/all of those spots both with the US youth national team and for his clubs.

So, we’ll see.

Clearer moves were made at both fullback slots, as sporting director Lutz Pfannenstiel first brought in what appears to be the new starting right back in Norwegian-American Tomas Totland, and then got what appears to be the new starting left back in 22-year-old Dane Nikolas Dyhr.

Nothing else significant has happened.

What's Next?

They still have a DP slot open, and while I haven’t seen any names mentioned, there is some suspicion they will be using it on a winger.

That seems appropriate to me, as none of the remaining wide attackers – Rasmus Alm, Tomáš Ostrák, Nökkvi Thórisson, Célio Pompeu – made an irrefutable case to be a starter in 2024. Stroud led all the wingers on last year’s team with 25 starts, five goals and five assists. He needs to be replaced.

Feb. 1 Update

They made one of the best moves of the offseason in selling Niko Gioacchini to Como of Italy’s Serie B for what’s been reported as $4 million (that seems high to me, but we haven’t seen an official number yet). Gioacchini is a solid player who did good work last year, but I’m not even sure he’s a starter. Getting a good-sized bag for that is legit.

Pfannenstiel has not turned around and spent his haul just yet, though they have been linked to German striker Cedric Teuchert.

If they land Teuchert or a player like him, I think a return to the 4-2-2-2 is likely. If not, then this side seems better set up to play in a 4-2-3-1. And either way, they’ve got a DP slot open.

STL depth chart 2.1.24

Offseason So Far (Jan. 8)

It’s been a low-key winter thus far, as Vancouver have mostly trimmed at the edges of the roster – letting some reserves walk, re-signing others, and in negotiations with a few more. Nothing ground-breaking.

By signing Damir Kreilach as a free agent, they did some smart business for a team that will be trying to win five different competitions this year. If he can soak up 1,500 minutes across all competitions, that will be invaluable to have – especially since they're selling their primary backup center forward, Simon Becher, for a reported $400k to AC Horsens of the Danish second division.

What's Next?

Becher’s departure does leave them thin at center forward, even with the arrival of Kreilach. I think they’ve got to get some depth there.

The real question, though, is at right back. It was Richie Laryea’s spot last season, and he was very good there, but not DP-level good. All the reports are that the ‘Caps are working with Nottingham Forest to bring him back, but I’ve got to imagine they’d like to do it on a smaller number than what he hit last year.

Those are the only spots that jump out right now. This team, as constructed, is pretty close to set.

Feb. 1 Update

They signed Fafà Picault as a free agent, which is a good move potentially at several different spots (in addition to his usual attacking roles I could see him filling in at right wingback in a pinch). And just this week they brought in Bjørn Inge Utvik, a former Norwegian youth international center back, who arrives on a free.

They also officially parted with Caio Alexandre, selling the Brazilian regista to Fortaleza.

  • They still have an open DP slot and have hinted at adding another attacker, but I’m not sure that makes sense.
  • It looks like the Laryea deal is not going to happen because Forest want more money for him than Vancouver can pay.
  • Veterans Russell Teibert and Junior Hoilett remain out of contract, and neither have been on any of the preseason rosters that I’ve seen.

Their season kicks off next week with a Concacaf Champions Cup home-and-home vs. Tigres. Good luck.

VAN depth chart 2.1.24